Concern grows over Indonesia's regions as Delta variant ravages Java

Stanley Widianto and Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Reuters

Posted at Jul 14 2021 06:36 PM

Concern grows over Indonesia's regions as Delta variant ravages Java 1
Men wearing protective face masks wait outside a store with their oxygen cylinders to get them refilled, amid a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, in Surabaya, East Java Province, Indonesia on July 12, 2021, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Didik Suhartono/Antara Foto via Reuters

JAKARTA - Concerns are mounting in Indonesia over the ability of its regions to cope with a spike in coronavirus cases, according to its health minister, as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads quickly across the world's largest archipelago.

Indonesia is struggling to slow the pace of COVID-19 transmission and on Wednesday reported a record 54,000 infections, up more than tenfold on the number of cases at the start of June, despite new containment measures.

The Delta variant first identified in India has been found in 11 areas outside of the densely populated Java island, health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said.

Cases and bed occupancy rates have risen in parts of Sumatra, Papua and Kalimantan, or Indonesian Borneo, and far-flung regions like West Papua were especially concerning, he told parliament this week.

"We must monitor this tightly, because if there's something happening there, their health capacities are below Jakarta or Java," Budi said.

In East Nusa Tenggara, infections have more than doubled in the last three days, while in Lampung on Sumatra bed occupancy on Monday had reached 86%, East Kalimantan at 85%, and West Papua at 79%.

Ismen Mukhtar, an epidemiologist in Lampung, said Indonesia's regions were extremely vulnerable.

"Health facilities are urgently needed because they save lives," he said.

"But what's more important is limiting transmission."

Java hospitals have been deluged in recent weeks, with many people struggling to get treatment. Most of the 550 people who have died in isolation since June were on Java, according to independent data initiative group Lapor COVID-19.

The Philippines announced on Wednesday it would ban travellers coming from Indonesia to prevent the risk of spreading the Delta variant.

As health experts warn Indonesia could be the next India, the government has scrambled to boost capacity and secure sufficient oxygen supply.

Senior minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who spearheads the emergency response, on Wednesday said oxygen supplies were well managed, with more than 1,500 oxygen generators expected to arrive from Singapore and China.

More than 2,000 newly graduated doctors and 20,000 nurses would soon be deployed to hospitals, he added.